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Skjold Drakkar Catacomb 6 String Bass Review

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Skjold Drakkar Catacomb 6 String Bass Review

Skjold Drakkar Catacomb 6 String Bass Review

  • 34” Scale length
  • Obeche (African whitewood) chambered core
  • Figured walnut top and back
  • 1 piece quarter sawn bolt-on maple neck
  • Pau Ferro fingerboard
  • Evo Gold narrow fret wire
  • Skjold integrated playing ramp
  • Skjold/Armstrong dual coil pickups
  • Skjold/East Uni-Pre preamp.
  • Skjold/Hipshot proprietary bridge with graph tech string saddles
  • Hisphot tuners

 

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There is a particular kind of satisfaction that comes with playing a bass that is just plain exceptional. More often than not, if you look hard enough, you can find something about an instrument that could have been done better. Between my part-time job reviewing basses, and my own twisted obsession with seeking out the worlds most skilled bass luthiers, I’ve had the pleasure of playing some truly wonderful basses. Through all this, I’ve grown to deeply respect the rare and small group of bass luthiers who are able to consistently produce great instruments. By great I mean: instruments that are exceptionally well designed and thought out, perfectly constructed with the best materials, which nail their target tonal goal, and play almost better than imaginable. When Pete Skjold stopped by my house to deliver my new bass on his way to a local expo, he shared with me the 5-6 basses he had on hand for the show. I was stunned (not only by how my instrument turned out, but) by how incredible each and every bass was, in its own right. No matter the bass, it seemed like Pete just nailed what that instrument was born to do. Like a master sculptor who sees a slab of material and naturally understands how the medium wants to be worked, Pete seems to have a sixth sense about how the pieces fit together toward the desired outcome. Its no wonder he’s called “the wood whisperer”. His deep command of how to combine elements toward a desired end result is frighteningly sharp. Every one of his basses I picked up was better than the last! I remember looking at him after playing 4 or 5 different Skjolds and blurting out “So… you’re kind of a freak, eh?” I meant it in a good way!

Many people familiar with Skjold’s work will recognize his distinctive shapes. The clear vision of Pete’s design goals is evident in all of his models. Skjold recently unveiled some new models, several of which are revamps of his previous designs, having evolved naturally over the decades that Skjold has been building. The Drakkar model evolved from the Damian Erskine signature Whaleback, Pete’s flagship single cutaway bass. The Drakkar includes several aesthetic and functional tweaks, including a somewhat more rounded and streamlined appearance than the Whaleback. For my tastes, the visual refinements are spot on, and the result is an extremely pleasing looking and feeling instrument.

Besides the new Drakkar body shape, this instrument features Pete’s heavily chambered and extra thick body, appropriately designated as a “Catacomb” model. Pete wanted to design a semi-hollow bass that imparts desirable acoustic properties such as “air”, “depth” and “bloom” to the sound, but doesn’t lose the low mid punch and focus that can sometimes result from semi-hollow construction. This is a tough balancing act, as many builders will attest to, and the Catacomb truly does nail the best of both worlds. Having played a handful of high end semi-hollow/chambered instruments, this bass has the focus and authoritative push of a solid body instrument, but has an unmistakable bloom and depth to the notes that really add dimension to the sound.  As Damian Erskine puts it: My Skjold Catacomb was an attempt by Pete and myself to develop a bass that was 100% even across it’s entire range, had a bit more ‘wood’ in the sound when necessary but also still gets growly and burpy with the best of them. I don’t know how he did it, but he nailed it. It’s the only 6 string I’ve ever loved the PASSIVE sound of. I bypassed the preamp in the bass and only play it passively because it just sounds perfect to me.”

Construction-wise, there is literally nothing on this bass that is out of place or could even remotely be considered a flaw.   The neck is slim and buttery smooth, with nicely rounded edges and impeccably dressed frets, and the whole bass sports a satin finish that lets you feel the wood grain under your fingers.   The gorgeous walnut top and back is slightly enhanced and glows with a rich warmth. The one-piece maple neck is rock solid and feels lovely under the fingers. The Pau Ferro fingerboard is a lovely specimen, and the fretwork is, literally, second to none.

I ordered this bass with Pete’s custom Kent Armstrong dual coil pickups, and the East/Skjold pre, which is based on the new John East Uni-Pre preamp.   The firm warmth and solid low end of the pickups was very well complemented by the powerful and versatile preamp. In addition to active bass and treble boost, a semi parametric midrange stack, volume, blend and passive tone, the East preamp features some impressive controllability via settings in the control cavity. There, you can adjust the individual pickup volumes, the frequency for the treble knob, and the bass “window”. Two thumbwheels allow you to tailor the center frequency and width of the bass boost/cut. You can also select whether you want a flat tonal response, or the classic upper-midrange curve that many familiar with the popular East Retro/Deluxe will recognize.   All of this is pure gold, if you ask me. No two basses are alike in their frequency response, not to mention that bassists have a wide range of preferences for how they like their onboard eq to work. The East offers the ability to customize your preamp to your tastes, your instruments’ inherent tone, or any other variable. Having owned a bass with this preamp in the past, I an enamored by the ability to tailor my onboard EQ so that it performs JUST how I like it to.

Two dual coil pickups are located under the pickup “ramp” that Skjold sets into the body. The integrated Skjold ramp is an elegant and highly functional solution for those who like playing ramps. Rather than two pickups with a slab of wood in between, the Skjold ramp offers a uniform playing surface with no edges or contours to navigate, and makes for a very satisfying experience for guys like me, who have adapted their technique to using ramps.  Skjold offers ramps made from exotic woods (to match the top, for example), but I ordered the standard version, made from a cast resin, which is nicely textured, feels solid, and has the Skjold logo laser etched in a very classy and subtle way.

Gigging is of course the great litmus test for an instrument, and I always like to see how a bass will perform ‘when the rubber meets the road’. Any sonic weirdness or tonal imbalances usually become pretty obvious when stuck in a busy mix on a loud stage. The thing that immediately impressed me about the Drakkar (besides how shockingly even it was from top to bottom) was how big and authoritative it sounds. It speaks with a huge, deep voice that really commands the bandstand. Band mates were quick to say that the Skjold sounded decidedly more assertive and full than other basses I’ve played. The Drakkar’s sonic authority sound made it easier to ‘play the band’: keeping everyone on point, driving the rhythm, informing the melody, and generally shaping the direction of the music.

The Drakkar came strung with a medium gauge set of Skjold Hybrid strings, which employ a combination of steel inner wrap with nickel outer wrap, resulting in a taut, focused sound with fantastic clarity and fundamental. I requested the bass with low action, and what I got was what I like to call “stupid low”. I could barely play the darn thing, and it had zero fret buzz! (Who is this guy?) Raising the saddles a hair resulted in low action with fantastic playability and tone. In an effort to bring out the woody and complex midrange, I tried a set of Skjold light gauge flat wound strings as well as a set of GHS Pressurewounds. The Flats offered just that: woody complexity and strong fundamental (and were surprisingly articulate) but I couldn’t quite get used to the flatwound feel on this particular bass. The GHS were a great middle ground, with their compressed outer windings. These hit the mark nicely, taming the highs and upper mids, while offering wonderfully smooth tone and feel. I also experimented with a set of Skjold Tension Balanced strings, which brought out a lot more clarity and detail in the upper mids and high end. I loved how each set really brought out different aspects of the Drakkars complexity, but at the end of the day, went back to the trusty Skjold Hybrids as the best overall matchup. Go figure, Pete nailed it again.

I ordered this bass from Pete to use as my main instrument, as I play six string most of the time. I am the first to admit that I’m very picky about basses, especially six strings. It’s pretty tough to make a bass that excels in its entire frequency range, and that was one desire that Pete and I discussed at length. We had many conversations about tone, feel, and aesthetics, and when the bass arrived, I was blown away by how well the instrument exceeded my expectations (which were admittedly very high). Whatever I thought this bass was going to be, I was shocked by how well it suited me, and how precisely he nailed the various and hard to describe attributes I had in mind for this instrument.

Skjold’s customers are really the best testament to the quality of his work. If you ask a Skjold owner to tell you about their instrument, they invariably gush over how great the bass plays and sounds. In fact, I know of more than one connoisseur/collector of the world’s finest basses, who have said that even though they own a variety of killer instruments, their Skjolds are the ones they would grab, god forbid, in the event of a disaster. If that’s not a true endorsement, I don’t know what is.

Having played a wide handful of his basses, it’s abundantly obvious that Skjold ‘gets’ bass building on another level. He understands not only how wood sounds and behaves, but also how each ingredient in the recipe acts in relation to the whole ‘dish’. He knows how to not only craft a bass that is rock solid, reliable, and sensitive, but one that is specifically tailored to his customers requests. These days, it may not be that hard find a luthier to build you a custom instrument, but finding one with the intuitive knowledge and expertise to consistently produce flawless, perfectly balanced basses is still a very rare and special thing.

Find out more about Skjold Design Guitars by visiting website www.skjolddesign.com.

 

Bass Videos

Review: Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB

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Review: Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB

Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB…

Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB – Hearing protection has always been front and center on my mind because I love music so much, I cannot imagine my life if I were unable to hear.

You might remember back in 2021, we had a good look at the Minuendo Lossless Earplugs featuring adjustable protection. This system has a lot of very good features but there was always the question of how much sound attenuation to choose.

Now, the great folks at Minuendo have come up with a new version of their earplugs that has a set 17dB noise reduction. You still get a lot of the great features of the adjustables but you just don’t have to think about the specific sound level. In addition, this new version of earplugs comes at a very attractive price point.

For more information, visit online at Minuendo.com

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Gear Reviews

Review: Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp

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Review: Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp

Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp: A Tribute to 90’s Iconic Sounds

Disclaimer: This pedal was kindly provided by Joyo for the purpose of this review. However, this does not influence our opinion or the content of our review. We strive to provide honest, unbiased, and accurate assessments to ensure that our readers receive truthful and helpful information.

In the realm of bass preamp/DI pedals, capturing the essence of iconic tones from the 90s can often feel like an elusive pursuit. However, the Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp emerges as a great option for bass players seeking to replicate the signature sounds of that era, particularly the revered tech21 SansAmp. With its robust feature set and compact design, the Tidal Wave offers a faithful homage to classic rock tones and low-gain distortions, all while providing modern conveniences for today’s bassist. Let’s delve into why the Joyo Tidal Wave stands out as a versatile and budget-friendly tool for both stage and studio.

Specs:

Measuring at 130 * 110 * 50 mm and weighing 442g, the Joyo Tidal Wave strikes a balance between portability and durability, making it ideal for gigging musicians and studio enthusiasts alike. With a power consumption of just 100 mA and a working voltage of DC 9V, the Tidal Wave ensures reliable performance in a variety of settings.

Controls:

At the heart of the Tidal Wave’s versatility lies its comprehensive control set, allowing bass players to sculpt their tone with precision. Key features include:

– Level: Sets the overall output volume of the pedal.

– Blend: Blends the dry signal with the cab-emulated signal, offering seamless integration of the pedal into any setup.

– Presence: Controls the dynamics of the high upper-mids, crucial for shaping drive tones.

– Drive: Introduces low-gain distortions and classic rock sounds into the clean tone.

– Treble, Middle, and Bass: Provides a 3-band EQ with frequency selectors for bass (40Hz – 80Hz) and mids (500Hz – 1KHz), offering ample control over tonal shaping.

– Middle Shift and Bass Shift: Allows for further fine-tuning of midrange and bass frequencies.

– Ground Lift: Helps eliminate ground loop noise in certain setups.

– DI Attenuation Switch: Adjusts the level of the DI output signal.

– LED Light Switch Control: Allows users to customize the ambient lighting of the pedal.

Performance:

True to its inspiration, the Joyo Tidal Wave excels in delivering classic rock tones and low-gain distortions reminiscent of the tech21 SansAmp. Whether you’re seeking gritty overdriven sounds or pristine clean tones, the Tidal Wave offers unparalleled flexibility and sonic versatility. The inclusion of a headphone out, XLR DI out with cab simulation, and throughout for the original bass sound make the Tidal Wave a versatile tool for both stage and studio applications. From practicing silently with headphones to crafting quality recordings in an ampless setup, the Tidal Wave delivers on all fronts with clarity, definition, and unmistakable character.

Pros:

The Tidal Wave boasts an array of advantages that set it apart from its direct competitors:

– Headphone Out: Transforms the pedal into a convenient practice tool.

– Size and Weight: Compact and lightweight design for easy transportation and setup.

– Rugged Construction: Durable build quality ensures longevity and reliability.

– DI and CabSim: Offers professional-grade direct recording capabilities with authentic cab simulation.

– Familiar Tones: Faithfully replicates the classic rock sounds of the tech21 SansAmp.

Cons:

While the Tidal Wave excels in many aspects, it does have a few drawbacks:

– Plastic Knobs: Knobs may feel less premium compared to pedals with metal controls.

– Cab Simulation Only on XLR Output: Limited cab simulation functionality may require additional routing for certain setups.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of classic rock tones from the 90s. With its faithful homage to the tech21 SansAmp, comprehensive control set, and modern conveniences like headphone out and XLR DI with cab simulation, the Tidal Wave offers bassists a versatile  tool for sculpting their sound with precision and finesse. Whether you’re seeking to replicate iconic tones from the past or forge new sonic territories, the Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp is sure to inspire creativity and elevate your playing to new heights.

Available online at Amazon.com

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Gear Reviews

Review: Joyo Scylla Compressor

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Review: Joyo Scylla Compressor

Joyo Scylla Compressor: When Quality meets Budget-Friendly

Disclaimer: This pedal was kindly provided by Joyo for the purpose of this review. However, this does not influence our opinion or the content of our review. We strive to provide honest, unbiased, and accurate assessments to ensure that our readers receive truthful and helpful information.

In the diverse landscape of effects pedals for bass guitar, finding a compressor that strikes the balance between performance, versatility, and affordability can often feel like a daunting task. 

However, amidst the sea of options, one pedal stood out as a true diamond in the rough – the Joyo Scylla compressor. Despite its wallet-friendly price tag, the Scylla boasts a great array of features and controls typically reserved for pedals with much higher costs. Let’s take a closer look at why the Joyo Scylla is turning heads and earning praise among bassists on a budget.

Specs: The Joyo Scylla compressor measures in at 109 * 72 * 48 mm and weighs a mere 234g, making it both compact and lightweight – perfect for gigs or studio sessions where space is at a premium. With a power consumption of just 100 mA and a working voltage of DC 9V, the Scylla is efficient and versatile, compatible with a wide range of pedalboard setups.

Controls: What sets the Scylla apart from its direct competitors is its comprehensive control set, offering bassists a good amount of flexibility in shaping their sound. With six knobs, the Scylla allows for a very precise adjustment of key parameters:

  • Input Gain: Adjusts the amount of signal being fed into the compressor.
  • Output Volume: Controls the makeup gain after compression, ensuring consistent output levels.
  • Compression Ratio: Unlike traditional compressor pedals with preset ratio options, the Scylla features a continuous knob, allowing for seamless adjustment from subtle compression to limiter-like effects.
  • Attack and Release: Determine how quickly the compression engages and releases, offering a range of tonal possibilities from punchy and aggressive to smooth and subtle.
  • Output Tone Control: A unique feature not commonly found in compressor pedals, the tone knob adjusts the coloration of the compressed signal, adding warmth or brightness to your bass tone.
  • LED Light Switch Control: Allows users to customize the ambient lighting of the pedal, adding a touch of visual flair to their setup.
  • Performance: In practice, the Joyo Scylla delivers where it matters most – in sound quality and performance. Whether you’re aiming for a tight, punchy bass sound or smooth, sustained notes, the Scylla excels in providing transparent compression that enhances your playing without sacrificing dynamics. The granular control offered by its knobs allows for precise tailoring of compression settings to suit a wide range of playing styles and musical genres.
  • Pros: The Scylla’s strengths lie in its granular control, versatility, and compact design. Its sturdy build quality and diminutive size make it a welcome addition to any pedalboard, occupying minimal real estate without compromising on functionality. However, perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Scylla is its price point. Despite offering professional-grade features, the Scylla remains accessible to bassists of all budgets.
  • Cons: While the Joyo Scylla excels in many areas, it’s not without its drawbacks. One notable omission is the lack of metering, which may pose a challenge for users seeking visual feedback on compression levels. Additionally, the plastic knobs, while functional, may feel somewhat less premium compared to other pedals. 
  • Conclusion: In conclusion, the Joyo Scylla compressor emerges as a great option in the world of budget-friendly effects pedals for bass guitar. Its comprehensive control set, transparent compression, and compact design make it a compelling choice for bassists seeking professional-grade performance without breaking the bank. From its intuitive interface to its thoughtful touches like the tone knob and customizable LED lighting, the Scylla delivers a level of versatility and functionality that belies its modest price tag. For bassists looking to elevate their tone without compromising on quality or affordability, the Joyo Scylla compressor is a clear standout.

For more information, visit online at joyoaudio.com/product/265.html

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Bass Videos

String Instrument Humidifiers

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String Instrument Humidifiers

String Instrument Humidifiers

After living in some very humid parts of the country for decades, we moved to a dryer, much sunnier location. As a result, I started noticing some fret sprout on my string instruments and recently did a video on fret sprout correction.

It occurred to me that I should take a more preventative approach to string instrument humidification. Of course, I turned to my instrument maintenance experts, Music Nomad Equipment Care, for a solution and they suggested their Humitar series. (Note: They sent two press samples and I purchased the remainder online.)

Join me as I look at these useful tools for keeping my string instruments in tip-top condition.

The Humitar series is available online at Music Nomad Equipment Care, as well as Amazon.com

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Bass Videos

Review: CrystalBright Rombo Picks

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Review: CrystalBright Rombo Picks

CrystalBright Rombo Picks

PR Sample

Playing bass with a pick is still a touchy subject in our community. I believe you should be able to use whatever you need to get your sound. Even though I mostly play with my fingers, I like to check out innovative new picks that might have something new to offer, sonically speaking.

Judith and Carlos from Rombo recently contacted me about a new material called CrystalBright that they have been researching for the last 12 months and offered to send some prototype picks. After trying them out, I put together this video with my findings.

For more info check out @rombopicks

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